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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Chinese investor seeks stake in Manchester United

An unnamed billionaire is reported to be lining up a bid for a stake in the Premier League club

Manchester United have been valued at more than £2 billion by their stock exchange value
Manchester United have been valued at more than £2 billion by their stock exchange value

A mysterious buyer has emerged who has designs on the Premier League football team Manchester United, aiming to build a stake in the club which is valued at $2.8bn (£2.2bn) and is currently 80% owned by the Glazer family.

The Sunday Times reports that a Chinese investor, believed to be a billionaire, has contacted independent shareholders who hold the remaining shares in the club to discover whether they would be willing to sell up.

It is not known how many will be interested in the bid, and discussions have remained informal, but the newspaper says that it is “only a matter of time” before a substantial amount of shares changes hands, with a batch of up to 8% being offered by an American broker.

Manchester United was bought by the patriarch of the American family, Malcolm, in 2005 for £790 million. There was fierce opposition to the takeover, which was funded by debt raised against the value of the club’s assets.

It was listed on the New York stock exchange in 2012 in a move which made the Glazers $150m, and after Malcolm Glazer died aged 85 I 2014, his six sons – Joel, Avram, Bryan, Edwrad, Kevin and Darcie – sold more of their stake to leave them with their current hold of four-fifths of the club.

There is believed to be disagreement between the siblings about what to do with Manchester United. Joel and Avram, who are co-chairmen of the club, which spent heavily in the close season on players such as Romelu Lukaku from Everton and Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic, want to keep the stake, as does Bryan. But the other brothers are believed to be interested in selling.

In recent years there has been a flood of Chinese money coming into British football: in 2016 entrepreneur Guochuan Lai bought West Bromwich Albion, while their Midlands neighbours Aston Villa were acquired by Tony Xia and Fosun purchased Wolves for £45m.

Since their New York listing, United shares haven’t performed that impressively, putting on only $3.10 from their original price of $14.

Machester United was named the world’s most valuable football club by Forbes magazine this year. The club reported revenues of £513.6m last year with record operating profits of £68.9m.

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